Some good news came out this morning that recent heavy rains have put a noticeable dent in the exceptional drought over parts of California, but the state still needs sustained rainfall (measured in feet, not inches) in order for their water situation to return to normal.

This morning's update of the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that a large chunk of northern California slipped out of "exceptional drought," the most severe category, and down to "extreme drought." Last week, 55.08% of the state was in an exceptional drought—this week, that number is down to 32.21%, with the worst drought holding steady across the state's Central Valley down through coastal areas towards Los Angeles.

A series of storms over the past month have brought significant amounts of rain and snow to the Golden State, with many spots along the coast from San Francisco to Eureka—as well as higher elevations inland—seeing more than 20 inches of precipitation over the past 30 days. Higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada have seen upwards of five feet of snow from the systems; snow totals would be higher if not for the above-freezing temperatures that often accompanied the precipitation.

It's great that we've seen almost a 23% reduction in the exceptional drought region, but almost the entire population portion of the state is still in an extreme drought. The state desperately needs more rain. The big number floating around over the past couple of days is that California needs 11 trillion gallons of water to get out of this drought and return to normal. That much water requires storms to produce 20-40+ inches of rain over the next six months.

Unfortunately, the next storms aiming for the West Coast will largely miss the parts of California that need rain and snow the most. Coastal sections of northern California stand to see the most rain over the next seven days, with more than five inches possible in some spots. Elsewhere, locations will see one to three inches of rain, if that.

It's a promising start to the rainy season. Let's hope the potential for an El Niño comes through.

[Images: author, NWS, WPC]

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